So your performance evaluation is just around the corner, and you’re experiencing a flood of not-great emotions–anxiety, uncertainty, maybe even outright dread. Or you’re basically confident that you’ve been doing a great job but your boss sometimes throws employees a curve, so you know you might encounter something unexpected. What can you do to prepare yourself as much as possible for a highly successful performance review?
For starters, you want to have all your ducks lined up well before the actual performance review. More on that in a moment, but first, let’s take a quick look at the two professional paths you might be on: steady growth with no huge jumps or fast-track, leap to the top.
It takes a giant redwood thousands of years to reach its full growth potential. If your career resembles that kind of slow but steady growth, your job performance and overall career progress might be less spectacular than someone who advances more rapidly. You will probably be focused on achieving a stream of successes that individually might not set the world on fire but cumulatively present a compelling picture of your value. It’s important, though, to make sure those contributions get recognized and acknowledged in the most appropriate way. Your performance review offers an excellent opportunity to do that.
On the other hand, if you’re a super-fast performance “star,” with your sights set on getting onto (or staying on) the career fast track, you might not have any trouble identifying your accomplishments and having them recognized. You’re likely to deliver contributions that naturally stand out, with the kind of impact that makes you hard to overlook. One caution in this case is to make sure your performance evaluation doesn’t go overboard on assigning all the credit to you if some of your accomplishments involved a team effort. No one likes a glory hound, especially anyone who has to work with (or for) that person.
Typically, you’ll have an opportunity to provide your self-evaluation at review time, with your input being incorporated into the review somewhere; but if you’ve waited until just before the review to create your self-evaluation, you’ve already waited much longer than you should have. The best time to start working on your next performance review is right after you’ve gone through the previous one. That gives you a year to make sure you’ve really got things together.
You can track a wide range of actions, projects, etc., to prepare your self-evaluation. One of the main prerequisites is that you need to know what matters most to your boss and ensure that you spend enough time and attention on those things. However, you also want to allow room for your professional growth or advancement and make sure you include those types of activities and results in your self-evaluation. It’s particularly important to “get it right” if your boss is the type who tends to downplay accomplishments in reviews or just doesn’t pay enough attention to make them top-of-mind when he/she prepares your review.
Remember, the review isn’t just a once-a-year event. It becomes part of your permanent record with the company. Also, it can directly affect your chance for raises, promotions, and other perks that your performance might well justify, not to mention providing useful information for a future job search outside the company.
An article by Amy Gallo, titled “How to Write the Dreaded Self-Appraisal” (Harvard Business Review, March, 2013), gives some excellent advice on preparing a self-evaluation, and the article includes a couple of interesting case studies to illustrate its viewpoint. Her key points are:
The beauty of your self-evaluation is that you can start working on it any time…like now!